Week Ending: 3rd December - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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As we enter the first week of December, don’t just tuck into your advent calendars. Our ever-trusty roundup has all the latest I.T. and tech news for you to devour.

From O2’s latest partnership, to Meta’s order to sell Giphy and a hacking spree in Iran which is spilling out across the world, we’ve got you covered.

So, take five minutes before you switch off and let’s get you caught up.

O2 teams up with The Big Issue as part of new National Databank initiative

As part of their Giving Tuesday campaign, O2 donated free data plans to help Big Issue vendors become cashless, reconnect with family, and access essential online services. The plans from O2 will include 7GB of data, a free SIM and unlimited calls and texts.

The scheme works like a ‘foodbank for data’, with the aim to tackle data poverty by providing free mobile data to people in need. For every plan sold this Christmas, O2 announced it will donate 10GB of data to the Databank so it’s available for those who need it, free of charge. The Databank is designed to support O2’s plan to get more than 255,000 people living in poverty connected by the end of 2023.

Find out more about the initiative here.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has been ordered to sell Giphy

The company previously known as just Facebook, bought the Gif-sharing search engine last year for £236m with the aim of integrating the vast database with of its platforms, Instagram.

But due to competition concerns, The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that Facebook would need to sell Giphy in its entirety to an approved buyer. In May 2020, when originally purchased, Facebook stated that “50% of the search engine’s traffic already came from Facebook – half of that from Instagram”. However, Giphy also provides Gifs to competitors such as, Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat.

Stuart McIntosh, chair of the independent inquiry at CMA said,

“By requiring Facebook to sell Giphy, we are protecting millions of social media users and promoting competition and innovation in digital advertising.” and added that without action it would “allow Facebook to increase its significant market power in social media even further, through controlling competitors’ access to Giphy Gifs”.

Meta hit back to say that they ‘disagreed with the decision’ and are “reviewing the decision and considering all options, including appeal”.

Read more about the inquisition here.

The global effects of a hacking spree against Iran

In April 2020, hackers were able to target the country’s trains, petrol stations and airline infrastructure, tampering with equipment. Individual fuel pumps malfunctioned but officials needed to focus on keeping water supplies flowing for millions of citizens. The incident, which has been linked to Iran, could’ve been much worse, as its initial aim was intended to poison water supplies by increasing chlorine levels. In an apparent act of retaliation, hackers targeted an Iranian port.

Lotem Finkelstein, director of threat intelligence and research at Israeli cybersecurity company, Checkpoint, said that “this was the first time that a nation responded immediately through a medium for cyberattack”. The attack marks a new wave of hacking against infrastructure in the region, disrupting millions of lives.

The attacks worry experts who said that the infrastructure which underpins large parts of daily life should be off-limits for state-sponsored hackers. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has set out 16 crucial sectors including energy, healthcare and food – that it believes should be off bounds for state-sponsored hackers. The attacks also come as Iran restarts nuclear weapons negotiations with world superpowers.

Many products from US companies have not been able to be purchased or updated in Iran – including those used within infrastructure systems. Iran is vulnerable when it comes to cyber defence as they are not able to update those tools, the equipment, patch them or even get support. At the same time, Iran’s hackers have targeted countries further afield, launching attacks against hospitals and transport infrastructure in the US and Australia since March this year.

Usually, compromising infrastructure and disrupting millions of lives is a red line for many in politics and the security industry - “if it’s civilian infrastructure, we should come to this mutual agreement that it shouldn’t be touched” says Naser Aldossary, a control systems responder based in the Middle East with infrastructure security company, Dragos.

Learn more about the hacks and its effects here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.